Postmodern Aesthetics and Neoliberal Politics: A Relationship between Ornament and Crime

author: Robert Pfaller, University of Art and Industrial Design in Linz
published: Jan. 20, 2020,   recorded: January 2020,   views: 17

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In the light of the dramatically increased social inequality due to the neoliberal politics of austerity and privatization, postmodernity appears (as I have argued in my recent book Erwachsenensprache) as the ideological superstructure to this development. Its programmatic relativism, the constant “folklorisation” of the Other (that has been remarked, for instance, by Nicolas Bourriaud), and the reduction of the adult citizen to a notoriously sensitive complainer (that only has, as Slavoj Žižek pointed out, the right to complain, but no other civil right whatsoever) are the political and ethical counterparts to the economic privatization of public goods and spaces. This raises a number of questions about postmodernity as a style in architecture: is this nothing but the expression of this ideology, or does it have at least a kind of relative aesthetic autonomy? Is the return of the ornament promoted by architectural postmodernity an obvious political crime, or is there a kind of innocence to it? How strong are the ties that link architectural form to ideological imagination and political reality? In order to answer these questions, I want to closely examine the reasons that led one of the founding fathers of modernity, Adolf Loos, to the famous equation between “ornament and crime”.

Robert Pfaller is a philosopher and professor at the University of Art and Industrial Design in Linz, Austria. His publications include: On the Pleasure Principle in Culture: Illusions without Owners, Interpassivity: The Aesthetics of Delegated Enjoyment, Erwachsenensprache: Über ihr Verschwinden aus Politik und Kultur.

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